Guts, glory but no bronze medal for midfielder Park
Midfielder Park Jong-woo returned to Korea without a bronze medal yesterday after the International Olympic Committee took issue with his actions following Korea’s 2-0 victory over Japan, which earned the country its first-ever medal in football.
During celebrations on the pitch, Park held up a sign that read “Dokdo is our land,” referring to Korea’s easternmost islets over which Japan has frequently claimed sovereignty.
Hours before the football match, President Lee Myung-bak became the first-ever Korean president to visit the islets, prompting Japan to recall its ambassador in Seoul.
“We have opened an inquiry and have asked the NOC [National Olympic Committee] of the Republic of Korea for an explanation,” the IOC said in a statement.
FIFA, the world’s governing body of football, also asked the Korea Football Association to submit an explanation by Thursday, according to KFA officials.
A KFA official stressed that it was not a pre-planned act, saying the player could have been carried away by excitement. He said a member of the crowd handed the banner over to him during the celebrations. He ran around with it before KFA officials quickly took it away from him, the official told Yonhap News Agency.
The IOC is expected to decide whether or not it will strip Park of his bronze medal based on the explanation over the intent of the act.
An Olympic bronze medal earns Korean athletes exemption from mandatory military service. No statements have been made regarding how an IOC decision would affect his status regarding the military policy.
By Moon Gwang-lip [firstname.lastname@example.org]